History of the Peloponnesian War


Thucydides. The Peloponnesian War. London, J. M. Dent; New York, E. P. Dutton. 1910.

After this the Syracusans sent out twelve ships under the command of Agatharchus, a Syracusan.

One of these went to Peloponnese with ambassadors to describe the hopeful state of their affairs, and to incite the Peloponnesians to prosecute the war there even more actively than they were now doing, while the eleven others sailed to Italy, hearing that vessels laden with stores were on their way to the Athenians.

After falling in with and destroying most of the vessels in question, and burning in the Caulonian territory a quantity of timber for shipbuilding, which had been got ready for the Athenians,

the Syracusan squadron went to Locri, and one of the merchantmen from Peloponnese coming in, while they were at anchor there, carrying Thespian heavy infantry,

took these on board and sailed along shore towards home.

The Athenians were on the look-out for them with twenty ships at Megara, but were only able to take one vessel with its crew; the rest getting clear off to Syracuse.

There was also some skirmishing in the harbor about the piles which the Syracusans had driven in the sea in front of the old docks, to allow their ships to lie at anchor inside, without being hurt by the Athenians sailing up and running them down.

The Athenians brought up to them a ship of ten thousand talents' burden furnished with wooden turrets and screens, and fastened ropes round the piles from their boats, wrenched them up and broke them, or dived down and sawed them in two.

Meanwhile the Syracusans plied them with missiles from the docks, to which they replied from their large vessel; until at last most of the piles were removed by the Athenians.

But the most awkward part of the stockade was the part out of sight: some of the piles which had been driven in did not appear above water, so that it was dangerous to sail up, for fear of running the ships upon them, just as upon a reef, through not seeing them.

However divers went down and sawed off even these for reward; although the Syracusans drove in others.

Indeed there was no end to the contrivances to which they resorted against each other, as might be expected between two hostile armies confronting each other at such a short distance: and skirmishes and all kinds of other attempts were of constant occurrence.

Meanwhile the Syracusans sent embassies to the cities composed of Corinthians, Ambraciots, and Lacedaemonians, to tell them of the capture of Plemmyrium, and that their defeat in the sea-fight was due less to the strength of the enemy than to their own disorder; and generally, to let them know that they were full of hope, and to desire them to come to their help with ships and troops, as the Athenians were expected with a fresh army, and if the one already there could be destroyed before the other arrived, the war would be at an end.